Friday, April 06, 2007

What Happened to March?

So, over a month ago I wrote about how I believed that my school work was anticlimactic, little did I know how very busy things would get in the following weeks. After spending a long day at work, and a long evening in the computer lab, writing in the blog just seemed like one more thing that I just didn't have time to do. I know that had I made it a priority I could have, but it seemed like more effort than I was willing to spend in the wee small hours of the morning before my head hit the pillow.

In the last month, I've learned some really interesting things. There have been some interesting speakers in my computer science seminar course. I'm having a blast working on my senior project, and I've read a couple of interesting books.

My senior project is a group project where the group is composed of three team members, and we essentially get to build a system of our choosing. Our group elected to take on a faculty sponsored project titled “Program Analysis for Education”. Essentially, it is an online quiz system that differs from a traditional online quiz system in that instructors will be able to ask students to write actual code as a quiz problem. This means that our system needs to have a fully functioning parser and interpreter so that we can attempt to automatically grade a student's input. The system is coming along quite well, but there is still a lot that needs to be done before we hand over our solution to the school at the end of the semester. The project has given me the opportunity to gain experience with Hibernate and the Spring Framework. I was originally skeptical of both tools, but as I have used them and learned about their capabilities, I've come to really agree with the paradigms presented by these two tools. This has been a really great project because it has had a real set of customers, so rather than programming in a vacuum, we've been able to present the system to our sponsors. It's been a ton of work, and there is still a lot to do, but it is very satisfying to see things coming together.

As far as the reading goes, here's the short list:

Somebody's Gotta Say It – Neal Boortz
The Long Road Home – Martha Raddatz

Pro Spring – Rob Harrop and Jan Machacek
Spring In Action – Craig Walls and Ryan Breidenbach
Pro Hibernate 3 – Dave Minter and Jeff Linwood
Java Persistence with Hibernate – Christian Bauer and Gavin King

There are some really great things to be said for Spring and Hibernate, I know that I am coming to this party a little late, but I believe that these tools have a lot to offer Java web development.

Spring is here, I've got 28 more days as an undergrad. I purchased my cap and gown at the bookstore this week. It was a surreal experience. In some respects I am very excited to be graduating, and in others, I am sad that this era is coming to a close. That isn't to say I won't continually be learning, but it will be different.


Sam said...

What did you think of the Boortz book?

Joe said...

Funny you should ask, I wrote the following book review a couple of weeks ago, but didn't posted it elsewhere.

Let us begin with a very incomplete listing of some of the more interesting chapters:

1. The War on the Individual
2. Evolution vs. Creation
3. Homosexuals and Their (GASP!) Agenda
4. Prayer in the Schools
5. The Right to Vote
6. The Tragedy of Our Government Schools
7. Abortion
8. Minimum Wage
9. Freedom-Loving? I think not.
10. President Bush, the Democrats, the Media, and the War on Islamic Fascism

With chapter titles like those mentioned above, you've got to know what you're getting into before you even start reading the book. Boortz, is a conservative, libertarian, talkshow host who broadcasts his syndicated show from the south. One thing for sure is that the man has some opinions. I suppose that were this not the case, he wouldn't be talking on the radio for four hours every day. His book has some great points, and regardless as to your agreement or disagreement with his philosophies, it is good to know what others think about things. A rather sweeping comparison would be to claim that the opinions expressed in Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is much of what Neil Boortz thinks is wrong with our country today. Well, maybe that is too sweeping, but they do cover different ends of the spectrum.

Of interest to me, and an area into which I have had little exposure was the platform and views of the Libertarian party, though even Boortz himself admits that at times the Libertarians and Republicans don't agree with the views that he espouses. There are some rather entertaining and disturbing "I'm never going to listen to you again" letters published in the book, which he claims are real. Perhaps I am a push over, or maybe I don't stand strongly enough for my convictions, but I tend to think that discussion is a good thing. If for some reason you have a philosophy that I don't agree with, that doesn't make you, or me, any less of a person. Isn't it because of discussions and debates that we are able to come to important conclusions about life, and the way we choose to live it? It's sad to see that some people, are so ready to write someone off completely just because they don't agree with a person's personal views.

Neal, having practiced law, and yammering on the radio for 30 years feels that he is uniquely qualified to talk about just about anything, and if you'll read the book, you'll see that there isn't any "sacred cow" that he isn't afraid to take his shots at. The book was written in a conversational style, and though it expresses the very strong, and sometimes unpopular, feelings of the author; has a nice pacing and flow. It's accessible, and easy to read. However, I do think that at times the assumptions that he makes about the reader a bit too narrow, and even though I criticize his treatment of the audience, he was usually correct.

As we head into the presidential elections, this was a book that certainly made me think about my views, the views of others. Boortz has some very strong feelings about the role of government, and our electoral process, and he's right when he claims that most people don't make informed votes, regardless of the party they vote for. I'll certainly be paying more attention.

Sam said...

I listen to him occasionally when driving home. His views can be...rather incendiary at times, hut i agree that on many things he's spot on. Have you read his tax book as well?

Joe said...

Nope, haven't read the tax book. Perhaps that would be something to add to the reading list in 20 days or so. I guess that it is just a more detailed version of what he talks about in Gotta Say It.